Terry Todd

Women’s Hall of Fame – 2004

Terry Todd

Biographical Information

Name: Terry Todd, Ph.D.
Date of Birth: 1-1-38
Hometown: Austin, Texas
Current Residence: 6470 Prairie Lea Road, Kingsbury, Texas, 78638; Work in Austin, Texas

Current Pursuits:

Director of Todd-McLean Physical Culture Collection in the Department of Kinesiology & Health Education, The University of Texas at Austin; Co-editor of Iron Game History: The Journal of Physical Culture.

I also direct the Arnold Strongest Man Contest held each year in conjunction with the Arnold Classic.

Jan and I live on a 300+ acre cattle ranch on the San Marcos River with a menagerie of animals including 5 peacocks, a Percheron draft horse, 50 cattle, two Sicilian donkeys, 3 English Mastiff dogs, an Emu, and three Maine Coon Cats, plus Jan’s mother.

Lifting History

When did you get involved with powerlifting and what got you interested in the sport?

I began as a weightlifter in 1956, and I won the Junior Nationals in WL in 1963. I then turned to PL as I was more suited to it, and won the first two national championships�in 1964 and in 1965 (the first official Senior Nationals)�as a superheavyweight.

Powerlifting Accomplishments

It doesn’t seem appropriate to list any more of the details of my lifting career as I’m not being inducted into this Hall as a lifter.

Coaching & Sport Administration

I was directly involved in the development of the sport of women’s powerlifting. I helped Jan and Joe Zarella organize the first national women’s meet in 1977, and coached the women�s team up in Canada, with Jan, from 1976-1979. When we moved back to the United States from Canada, in 1979, I was soon elected to the Executive Committee of the USPF, and always supported women�s lifting. I also helped Jan as we lobbied for and ultimately achieved autonomy for the women’s committee; but we finally abandoned the USPF when we could not convince the organization to institute a steroid testing program for men or women lifters. In 1977, when the World PL Championships were televised in the U.S. for the first time, I was the color commentator for NBC. In the following few years, I also did color commentary for national and international PL events for NBC, CBS, ESPN, and the BBC. Some of my commentary involved women’s PL.

In 1977, I published the first major book about PL, called Inside Powerlifting. The book profiled seven of the leading lifters of that period, and one of those lifters was Jan Todd. I also covered the major national and international PL events during the 1970s and 1980s for such magazines as Muscular Development and Iron Man. I also helped to introduce PL to a larger audience through my articles in Sports Illustrated, covering such lifters as Lamar Gant, Bill Kazmaier, Larry Pacifico, and Jan Todd.

At the collegiate level, Jan and I coached the University of Texas Longhorns to numerous ADFPA Men’s and Women’s National Collegiate Championships between 1986 and 1996. (We then retired as the UT coaches to concentrate on our work with our Physical Culture library.) We also coached the men�s women�s team at Auburn University and produced many collegiate and national champions.

In 1982 Jan and I promoted the USPF Women�s National Championships at Auburn University.

Most memorable lifters? in you career:

If I could, I’d like to qualify this a bit.
I�ll just list two men, and this Hall is about women, but Lamar Gant and Mark Henry top my list. Both, so far as I know, have been lifetime clean, and both were prodigiously strong. Lamar�s world deadlift record of 672 pounds at 132 pounds is still one of the greatest lifts ever made. And Mark has the highest combined five-lift total (bench press, squat, deadlift, snatch, and clean & jerk) in history.

As for the women, I’ll list a few:

Terri Ptomey, phenomenal potential, and was robbed of a win over Beverly Francis at the World�s.
Beverly Francis, a great all-round lifter who opened many doors for many women.
Judy Gedney, for all the reasons Jan gave about her.
Eileen Vanisi�at 5�11� and 285, Eileen won the NCAA shotput title three years running for the University of Texas at Austin, but had she chosen she could have rewritten the record book in PL. In (so far as I know) her only PL contest, she did 490-275-460, with no gear and no special training.
Jan – She was farther ahead of her peers than anyone else has ever been–by as much as 100 pounds at one time in the squat. I saw her do five reps in the gym with 505 one day without a squat suit when no other woman could do one rep with that much, with a suit. And even today many strong men would have a hard time matching her partial deadlift with 1230. She had�and still has�remarkable natural, �worker�s� strength�and I see it often here on the ranch as she hauls wood or water or lifts our 200-plus pound dogs into our pick-up truck. She showed the many hundreds of women who followed her that a woman could be strong and that that strength could lead to success in other fields, too. Perhaps the most important thing about Jan, who received more mainstream publicity than any woman powerlifter before or since�is that she was always very aware of the political aspects of her strength and the coverage it attracted, and that she used that awareness to advance the cause of women in general and powerlifting women in particular.

As your name goes down in history, what would you like to be most remembered for:

I would hope I’d be remembered as a pioneer, of course, someone who as a lifter, a writer, a coach, a tv commentator, and an administrator helped made it possible for men�s and women�s powerlifting to be accepted and to grow in popularity. Of all the things I�ve done in the sport, however, the thing I’m most proud of is the stance that Jan and I took on the drug issue. I like to think that I�d have taken this stance without Jan�s example, but I�m not sure that I would have. I came up as a lifter in a time before anabolic steroids were illegal or even against the rules of the sport, and I used them myself. Most of my friends in PL in the early years of the sport also used them, and I lost many friends by speaking out so loudly against drugs once I’d seen what they could do and had thought through the issue carefully. Those of us who fought against these drugs in our sport back then thought we were right and Jan and I still feel that way, and we tried to demonstrate as lifters and/or coaches that women (and men) could be very strong and still be clean. Through the years during which Jan and I were most active, we worked hard for meaningful drug testing in both the USPF and, later, the ADFPA, but we opposed inappropriate testing such as the use of �lie detectors�.

What words of wisdom would you like to pass down to the future female powerlifters:

1. Try to think of strength as an aspect of humanity and not something that’s gendered. I’m like Jan, and think a lot of women�even now�are limited in their pursuit of strength by our cultural identification with strength as �masculine� and weakness as �feminine.� But strength is no more masculine than is speed. Don’t be limited by other people�s opinions of you.

2. Get involved with the administration of powerlifting. For women’s powerlifting to continue to grow meaningfully, more women need to become involved as referees, state chairpersons, and to serve in a variety of other administrative capacities. Women can only have a meaningful voice in running their own affairs if they take the time to get involved in administration as well as lifting.

3. Thank your coaches for the hundreds of hours they devote to your training and success. Coaches are the unsung heroes of the powerlifting world.

4. Always walk at your tallest and broadest.

Terry Todd Photo Gallery

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